The BP Gulf Oil Spill and Arctic Ocean Drilling

Categories: Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, connected to a BP oil well exploded, leading to the largest accidental oil spill in the United States history (Beilinson). However ironically, weeks before the oil rig exploded many workers were concerned about safety practices and the punishments that may come with reporting mistakes. Workers said they often saw unsafe behaviors on the rig on a daily bases. Soon after the BP oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, assessments of the damage to the Gulf of Mexico varied from not as bad as predicted to simply devastating (Ott 5).

On March 2, 2012, BP and the complainants lawyer’s agreed to settle the April 2, 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill (Beilinson). According to a New York Times Company news article, “Judge Carl J. Barbier of Federal District Court in New Orleans issued an order stating that the two sides have reached an agreement on the terms of a proposed class settlement which will be submitted to the court, and announced that the first phase of the trial is adjourned indefinitely while the next steps are worked out” (Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill).

Furthermore, the company estimated that the claims would cost approximately $7.8 billion (Cavnar 21).

However, this claim did not present a maximum limit on what BP would pay. Instead, BP said it had already paid out more than $8 billion to companies representing businesses and individuals affected by the spill and had spent approximately $14 billion to fix the spill (Cavnar 22).

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Most intriguingly the government is suing BP, in order to recover the billions of dollars lost from environmental damage. Along with the agreement on the cost of the economic damages, BP and the complainants’ reached an agreement on the necessary medical issues related to the spill. Sooner or later, both sides came to an agreement that compensation and medical services for 21 years will be provided for all those affect by this massive disaster (Final Report). Then after a series of failed attempts to stop a leak that began on April 20, 2010, BP finally covered the Macondo well in July of 2010 (Final Report). “Nearly five months after it blew out of control, the federal government finally declared the well dead in September, after pressure tests confirmed that cement pumped into the base of the well through a relief well formed an effective, and final, seal” (Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill). As a result, due standard industry practices, the Macondo well, in addition to two other wells, were finally abandoned, but not before scientists estimated that nearly five million barrels of BP owned oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. To this this day, the long-term damage caused by the spill is still uncertain due to the large amounts of oil that spread under the water surface due to the amount of chemicals sprayed on the spill, which were meant to break up the oil (Freudenburg 8). Finally, after some time, it was settled that BP was ultimately responsible for the entire accident, including the poor cementing job that was done on the well (Beilinson 20). However, today the surface oil has dispersed, but questions remain about the effect of the massive underwater clouds of oil that spread across the Gulf of Mexico.

BP had sprayed numerous chemicals on the spill that were meant to break up the oil in the hopes this chemicals would settle to the bottom. In addition, BP attempted to pump heavy drilling fluids through two narrow lines to plug the well however this failed because the pressure of oil and gas escaping from the well was way too powerful (Cavnar 20). Eventually, the leak was finally stopped when BP managed to put on a much tighter cap approximately one mile below the sea floor. To this day over hundreds of miles of beaches have been reclaimed and only a fraction of beaches are still mucky and dirty from the BP Gulf Oil Spill (Lehner 2 and jobs have returned to most of the people affected by this massive disaster. In addition, the federal agencies that are responsible for policing offshore drilling have developed new and stricter safety rules. In the end, although the uncertain environmental impacts are covered up by the enormous amounts of penalties and fines that BP will have to pay to the federal government, I believe this oil spill will continue to occur in the media and in ‘town hall’ type meetings for years to come.

From my point of view, in this case I believe that both BP and the government are at fault. Obviously, BP is at fault for the oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico due to the poor cement job and many other circumstances. However, on the other hand, the response effort by the government lacked serious preparation, planning, and urgency government officials, as well as BP (Handwerk). In my mind, the government constantly underestimated how much oil was flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, as well as how much oil was left after the well had already been capped. Therefore, in my opinion, this has led me to a loss of faith in the government’s ability to handle the BP Gulf Oil Spill. To also note, according to other reports, “about two weeks after the BP rig exploded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asked the White House for permission to make public its worst-case models for the accident, but the request was denied” (Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill). As a result, I believe that the government is at just as much fault for this massive disaster. In my opinion I believe that zero offshore oil and gas drilling should be expanded. Instead I believe that offshore oil and gas drilling should be inspected and enforced for stricter safety regulations. The government should not have allowed any new offshore drilling until an investigation was conducted in order to determine whether this oil spill could have been prevented.

In other words, I do not agree with the drilling permits that were already underway. In my mind, the government needs to revise the process for granting drilling permits. I would have opened investigations into the oil spill as soon as possible, while forcing BP to cooperate fully with any investigation deemed necessary. In addition, I would have in used this massive oil spill crisis in order to press for a worldwide change in energy policy. Plus, I would have appointed a long-term recovery coordinator and demanded BP to set up a fund that would reimburse all the affected people. I would set up new spending regulations for offshore oil operations because unless industry practices and government regulations improve, I guarantee another accident like such will happen again. However, I believe that companies with excellent safety records should have to pay for costly new regulations. In a whole, what I believe should have been done is not completely correct, but rather my opinion. Nevertheless, I realize that offshore drilling will remain a serious part of the nation’s sources of energy from fossils fules in the near future. After doing extensive amounts of research on the history on the BP Gulf Oil Spill I believe that I have become more knowledge about this enormous disaster. In addition to all the knowledge I have gained from researching this huge disaster, I have started to question some of the choices that BP, the government, and everyone else involved made.

I do not agree with every dissension made during this debate by the media and in ‘town hall’ type meetings. Furthermore, to my belief, understanding the long-term effects from the April 20, 2012 Gulf Oil will continue to puzzle scientists for years. For example, I believe that the effect on sea life due to the large amounts of oil that have dissolved below the surface will remain a mystery for years to come. Either way, in the end, in response to what I have found, I believe that the damage already done by the oil spill is significantly less than the destruction from previous oil spills. However, [a year after BP’s Oil Spill, Congress sits ideal] and the damage of the oil spill remains unknown because of the fact that oil spills can have unpredictable and devastating effects that last for decades (Howell). After looking at information from the BP Gulf Oil Spill and information about the Arctic Ocean I will now begin to explore drilling in the Arctic Ocean from the perspective of my assigned stakeholder. After years of debate over drilling in the Arctic Ocean in the waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, government officials are becoming extremely close to granting permission to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean. As of this past summer, the American Government has allowed Royal Dutch Shell to begin the necessary preparatory work in the Chukchi, however Royal Dutch Shell will not be allowed to drill in areas containing oil until the government certifies that this areas oil spill control system are mistake free.

Nonetheless, Shell has spent approximately $4.5 billion so far in its effort to explore for oil and gas off Alaska’s coast and the drilling plans will be back on track after a few minor draw backs are cleaned up (Steffy 33). Generally speaking, some stakeholders and cooperation’s will fully support the American Government decision to drill in the Arctic Ocean, while some stakeholders and environmentalists that live in the area will oppose drilling in the Arctic Ocean due to the fear and risks that come with oil spills. Thus with this being said, for this debate my assigned stakeholder will be the American Government who is best represented by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. We, as the American Government in this horrific disaster are going to be in for a gigantic fight. Unfortunately, we are stuck in the middle of a two sided argument over drilling in the Arctic Ocean that will be harder than ever imagined to get out of. When President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ran for office, they made some promises about cleaning up the mistakes made by the Bush Administration. However, by allowing more drilling in the Gulf, President Obama and Vice President Biden were not honoring their promises to clean up the mistakes made by the Bush Administration. Consequently, the American Government was put in a tough situation from the very beginning. As a result, now that we have opened up drilling in the Arctic Ocean to Royal Dutch Shell.

The politicians and lobbyists for the oil companies have pressured President Obama to make the EPA give Royal Dutch Shell a break in the Clean Air Act for the experimental drills in the Arctic Ocean. At this time, nobody liked us because of this and now we were beginning to wonder if we could even save our jobs and reputations before the ordeal escalated even further out of control. By allowing more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the American Government was not honoring their promises, and for that reason we were stuck in the middle of several events that we could simply not stop or control. We could not stop the oil from flowing, we could not clean up the environment, and many people around the state of Louisiana lost everything, which was almost as big as a problem as Hurricane Katrina. We did not want the administration to be blamed for doing to nothing in this case of emergency, but what could we really do when we were doing our best?

Then once we thought we were doing our best, we were hammered by the Republicans for putting a stop on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico until all the oil rigs follow certain safety inspections. Thus, nobody liked us, even when we were doing are best to please everyone, which can nearly impossible. Although it was not until the nation ‘forgot about the oil spill because of Arab Spring that Congress set aside a majority of the stricter guidelines and laws about drilling for oil. Then once we opened up drilling in the Arctic Ocean, oil companies pressured President Obama to make the EPA give British owned, Royal Dutch Shell, a break on the Clean Air Act for the exploratory drills in the Arctic Ocean. As a result of this gift to Shell and the oil industry many new disagreements on the world’s viewpoint about drilling in the Arctic Ocean were created in the media. In our case, after looking at this disaster we believe that the American Government was doing their best in making promises to clean up and make the necessary recommendations, in order to promote the worldwide changes that will make the United States offshore energy importing and exporting a whole lot safer. We believe that BP is at fault for all the human and environmental damage from the enormous oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico due to the poor cement job, poor safety regulations and many other circumstances. BP is a fault for the large amount of air and water pollution created from the oil spill.

However, the unfortunate turn of events all caused by the oil spill damaged the public’s faith in the energy industry, government officials, and even our own ability as a nation to respond to such crises due to the several flaws in BP’s oil drilling. As a whole, we hope that a detailed, demanding, and a focused plan for improvement can begin the process of restoring complete confidence in the American Government. We believe that the American people, especially the American people directly affected by the BP Gulf Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico region have way too much to lose over and over again; subsequently, we believe that drilling for oil should be a privilege to be earned, rather than a guarantee. In conclusion, we as the American Government stand behind drilling in the Arctic Ocean, even after what happened with the BP Gulf Oil Spill, the clean-up, the environmental and human effects, technology, and protection laws. We have granted Royal Dutch Shell the permission to begin some limited drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. We will grant them permission to begin preparatory work in the Chukchi, but not until we certify the Chukchi Sea’s oil control system. Consequently, just because we favor drilling in the Arctic Ocean, does not mean that the rest of the public will agree, therefore we have proposed a strict game plan for the debate, as well as a list of potential arguments/complaints other stakeholders might have against our stakeholder.

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The BP Gulf Oil Spill and Arctic Ocean Drilling. (2022, Jul 15). Retrieved from

The BP Gulf Oil Spill and Arctic Ocean Drilling
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